So here we have the first story where romance comes out of the closet—heterosexual romance, at least. Any other kind would wait another three decades to surface in these pages. We knew that Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl would eventually get married. We knew that Phantom Girl had a “thing” for Ultra Boy, but it hadn’t been referenced since that one issue where it was established. This is the first time that the four characters came right out and admitted their attraction to each other, and revealed that, ultimately, they wanted to get married.
For teens who were attracted to each other in 1965 the only polite word to follow “get” was “married.” Well, maybe “engaged.” The lesser status of “going steady” did not begin with “get,” because it was assumed in polite society that no one was getting anything.
Oh, my, I have the vapors…
Okay, so an alien invasion is imminent, and the Legion has to enact “Plan R” right away. But R doesn’t stand for “romance,” Phantom Girl and Ultra Boy, so stop making eyes at each other! And don’t defend them, Saturn Girl, because you and Lightning Lad were sitting there smooching!
“Smooching?” You’d think Brainy would use a more technical term. Yeah, maybe “smooching” is safest, though, because actually lettering terms like “mucous membranes” onto the page might have upset the Comics Code.
What’s wrong with this picture? Sooooo much.
First of all, since when is Brainy in charge? He’s running the briefing, maybe, but he snaps at Saturn Girl like she’s a recruit, when she is, in fact, the elected leader. Saturn Girl is also out of character. She barely flinched when Lightning Lad died, much less when he lost an arm. Now she’s making out with him in the clubhouse meeting room? Doesn’t sound like the Imra we all know and quietly respect for her intellect and steely resolve.
As part of the invasion, Brainy tells us there are spies hidden somewhere on Earth. And, indeed, we’re shown the spies, who are watching every single thing that happens in the clubhouse on a monitor screen. These guys have managed espionage pretty well! (It’s actually never explained how they managed to bug the clubhouse, but one assumes, with the powers they later display, that it would have been pretty easy for them.)
The Legionnaires go searching for the spies, but the spies find them, accosting Saturn Girl, hoping to force her to reveal the inside scoop on this “Plan R” they just heard about. Lightning Lad saves her, and the Legionnaires overhear one spy ask another “Why didn’t you become invulnerable?” Yeah, remember Superboy’s ability to leap to tall conclusions at a single bound? He does it again, here, concluding that the spies must be using artificial super powers. Um, doesn’t Ultra Boy switch from one power to another? Why do you conclude that the powers are artificial, Clark? (Answer: Because they are. Another recurring cliché—the hero just knows things.)
Tired of seeing his loved one endangered, Lightning Lad announces to apparent-leader Brainiac 5 that he and Saturn Girl are getting married. (Did he ask Saturn Girl first? Hmmmm….) Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl announce the same. And get married they do. Light Lass gives in to crying, mentioning for the first time since he returned to life that Lightning Lad is, in fact, her brother.
And then, with the Legion down four members, the spies decide to masquerade as applicants. You’d think at least one of them would be denied, given the odds, but here we trip over another cliché—every villain who applies gets accepted. Well, not Radiation Roy, Ron Karr or Spider Girl, but one assumes they became villains after the Legion didn’t take them. It’s pretty astounding, given the rigorous checking the Legion has done in the past, that these idiots, like Dynamo Boy, are not checked for the use of artificial means of acquiring their powers. It seems no background checks are performed, either, and the new members are allowed to run off on a mission all by themselves, with no training.
But here’s the good news—unlike Dynamo Boy’s acceptance, this is all part of a clever plan hatched by Saturn Girl and Brainiac 5. For the first time in recent memory, Saturn Girl’s powers have worked, and she’s picked up that some spies want to infiltrate the clubhouse. The whole marriage and needing-new-members thing was a trap. The Legionnaires assumed that any applicant they didn’t know was most likely one of the spies. Big assumption, but, hey… At least it means Saturn Girl was not out of character, and it explains why Brainy is suddenly in charge.
A throwaway panel showing the Legion Library is fun. Amongst the different types of storage media are included “Animal Books from World Zinnat.” I love it!
So, despite yet another cliché—villains who can instantly develop every power under the sun—powering this story, it works pretty well. The Legion uses their ruse to find out what planet wants to invade, and then relieves that world—Murra—of its ability to manufacture “super power pills,” which were going to be the key to the invasion. The computer that makes them is taken away, and all the remaining stock are changed to aspirin by Element Lad.
One question—Suppose aspirin kills Murrans? That would make Element Lad the DCU’s Dark Phoenix! Imagine survivors coming to wipe out the entire Arrah family (Oops! Too late!) (Too soon?) and execute this mass murderer. And then Element Lad could return every year for an “event” book, with readers knowing he would always have to die at the end, to protect the universe.
In the end, we’re left with the assurance that the romances between these two couples are real—finally! And, while it is a little jarring that Saturn Girl, who has always been so unfeeling, is suddenly in love with Lightning Lad, it makes sense. She’s known him and Cosmic Boy the longest. She blames herself for his death. The poor guy has been used as a spy twice, had to pose as a traitor (another cliché!) and lost an arm. She’s seen him repeatedly brought down and seen him repeatedly get back up again. Through it all, she’s been the one closest to him. That probably built quite a bond between them, in addition to the fact that they’re both young, available and good-looking.
Roll Call: Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Element Lad, Lightning Lad, Light Lass, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Sun Boy, Superboy, Triplicate Girl, Ultra Boy